My China Story | Dickson David Agbaji (Nigeria)


I dreaded Wednesdays throughout the second semester of my freshman year at the university. The reason being that my stern African politics professor with monstrous narcissistic tendencies (or so I perceived in error, as this perspective changed later) taught my colleagues and I on this day. He seldom smiled and possessed a strong disgust for lads sitting beside ladies during lectures. Though it felt tiring being his student, I stomached the discomforting condition for the entire term since I needed to pass the course. But my knowledge of Africa's relationship with other nations faced eminent modification on a Wednesday when, during his lecture, he asked: "Is America still the hegemonic centre of the global politics?"

Before a chap came to our rescue, a deafening silence engulfed the classroom for fifteen seconds. He answered, stating that America's hegemony was diminishing owing to several factors, an instance being the spread of Chinese political, industrial and technological interests in the world. More so, he mentioned the threats posed by myriad terrorist groups, for example, ISIS, al-Qaeda and Boko Haram, inter alia, and the Middle East crisis towards which the American government deploys its large military and monetary resources to quail. He concluded with the ensuing words: "The 20th century was the age of the Americans but the 21st century is the era of the Chinese."

I contended with this final statement. Throughout the weekend, I pondered on it and I seldom tried to figure out the policies the Chinese government adopted to place itself in such a relevant position in global politics.

The succeeding week, I stormed the university's library to read every book I could pick up relating to China's "economic miracle" — my description for the nation's transition from a developing to one of the most industrialized countries on Earth. The books of Ezra Vogel, Joan Spero, Jeffery Hart, Barry Naughton, John Rourke, Andrew Linklater, and Gerald Chan, among others, came in handy. These authors described the roles of the Asian country's rich cultural past, Sinocentrism, and Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms. The latter unlatched China's trade relations with a wide spectrum of other nation-states and facilitated the improvement in the Chinese people's commercial lives.

These details thrilled me. My interest waxed to construe the Sino-Africa partnership, China's history in global government, the institutional frameworks which propel its functionality, key drivers between China and the world. Again, I got captivated because contrary to the pro-Western view that democracy precedes security, China upholds that development antecedes security. This notion influences Chinese financial support and capacity building in Africa. Further, it promotes Africa's preparedness to confront novel defence challenges, e.g. climate change, pandemics and terrorism, transcending military solutions.

This fascination of China's external relations, policies and role in universal development metamorphosed into a research passion. I wrote essays on Chinese socioeconomic impacts in Africa. In fact, my published journal article on Nigerian foreign policy posture highlighted the China-Nigeria cooperation of the Buhari's administration. Likewise, my participation at the 2017 "International Conference on Law, Security and Development Strategies" opened a vista of opportunities for me to interact with scholars possessing an in-depth understanding of China's global essence.

From that Wednesday morning, I desired to study in China. So, I surfed the internet in search of opportunities to take advantage of. As soon as I applied for the Yenching Academy of Peking University admission, I made a commitment to use the YCA's experience to learn China's approaches to confronting insecurity and its role in the climate change adaptation and mitigation frameworks. As a student of politics and Earthplus Africa's ambassador, I knew this knowledge would serve as a guide to developing a refined solution-based intervention on my return to Africa. Also, I expected to gain extensive regional expertize in Asian states and nongovernmental organizations' contributions to global politics and development. This was one area I may well apply my qualification at home since it is lagging in Nigerian universities, especially at my alma mater, the University of Calabar, Nigeria.

Peking University is one of the top tier schools in China and the world, and I reasoned that to study at YCA and China would be a ladder to my career. This opportunity would provide first-hand information of events and practices shaping global politics, security and development because of China's partnerships with America, Europe and Africa. Having heard a lot about the "Chinese Year of the Pig", the massive turnouts and the media coverage the festival attracts, I understood that China's rich cultural history and setting would connect me into a network of people whose relationships are testimonies to maintaining security vis-à-vis diversity. I conceived that this will perhaps offer me an extraordinary universal network for future engagements. Furthermore, I knew deep down in my heart that being in China will avail me opportunities to learn Mandarin from its native speakers, hence, making me more resourceful and independent.

My admission into YCA is a feat I will treasure all my life because it is a dream come true. Also, it will be a novel experience for me as I have never been outside the Nigerian borders. Just as my classmate stated over five years ago: the 21st century is the Chinese century. I cannot think of a better place to study.

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